Back to Basics: Hardening Computers & Smartphones

Definition of โ€œHardening,โ€ credit: Techopedia

Foundation of Basic Computer Security Principles

  • Confidentiality โ€” the protection of information against unauthorized access
  • Integrity โ€” the protection of information against unauthorized modification of data
  • Availability โ€” the protection of your ability to access your information

Remove All Unnecessary Applications

The Principle of Least Privilege

Defense-in-depth

  1. Ensure your computerโ€™s operating system (OS) is up-to-date by determining whether updates need to be installed.
  2. Anti-Virus- Avast has an excellent free version, but really any AV vendor that is top-rated should do the trick. You want daily scans of your computer/smartphone as every day there are millions of new strains of malware released into the wild.
  3. Anti-Spyware software like the free version of Spybot is also a good idea to use.

Changing Default Account Passwords

Enable Automatic Updates

Use a Password Manager

KeePass offers a free locally stored Password vault option

Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Firewalls

Advanced Settings within Windows Defender firewall; note it is being managed by a third-party AV product (Avast)

Lock Your Computer or Device When Not Present

To lock your screen in Windows press Windows key + L simultaneously

Beware of Suspicious Emails, Attachments, & Links

Sample Phishing Email

Treat Smartphones Like The Computers They Are!

Credit: top-gadgets.net
  1. Enable Full Disk Encryption (FDE) โ€” iPhones come pre-manufactured with FDE, so no worry there iPhone users. However, for Android users, you must enable this feature aftermarket by navigating to Settings>>Biometrics and security>>Secure startup>>Require PIN when the device turns on (i.e., depending on your Android version it may be slightly different). You want to use an 8-digit PIN for better password entropy. You could also require a password to unlock your phone, but that is going to get old extremely fast. Even an 8-digit PIN though will not afford you protection from brute-force attacks against a skilled attacker using password cracking technology.
  2. Enable a screen lock of some type, PIN, password, biometric fingerprint, or a retinal scanner. The strongest PIN security is an 8-digit PIN or password, just keep in mind that youโ€™ll be entering this PIN or password every time you need to unlock your phone. You can also set a combination of screen locks such as a fingerprint or geometric shapes for unlocking the screen after the phone has been turned on and booted up or perhaps an 8-digit PIN for unencrypting the device before boot up. The point is to have protection on your smartphone so that no one can just pick it up and have access to your entire phone.
  3. Enable remote wipe in case your smartphone is stolen.
  4. Install Anti-Virus software โ€” With AV software products, you get what you pay for. Check the ratings ahead of time of other users, read the reviews. Read the PC Magazine editorโ€™s best picks. Purchasing the premium protection version is better if affordable because they typically offer more services than just AV protection. Pick a vendor product that is highly rated, not too pricey, works well, and isnโ€™t too clunky which could result in degraded phone speed performance.
  5. Install a paid, no-logging Virtual Private Network (VPN) application from privacytools.io to protect your Internet browsing activity from snoopers when youโ€™re using public Wi-Fi hotspots. This wonโ€™t stop law enforcement or Big Brother (i.e., Government) from being able to track you but it should protect against your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Hacker Bob at Starbucks from seeing what youโ€™re doing online. You should know that there are a lot of unscrupulous VPN vendors out there advertising that they donโ€™t collect your Internet browser activity or sell that your data to other collectors. Do your homework first before choosing a VPN provider and remember that you get what you pay for. No โ€œfreeโ€ service is ever really free, is it? Nope, that boat doesnโ€™t float, folks. If a service is free, you are the product!

Hey Man, You Lost Me At โ€œSecurityโ€

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the salty chronicles of one bumbling infosec engineerโ€™s lifelong quest to design less shitty privacy & security while trying his best not to blow up the planet

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